Northern leaders have expressed anger after it was revealed that Rishi Sunak is considering further cuts to the HS2 project north of Birmingham. Concerns have been raised over the possibility of cancelling all or part of the northern section of the high-speed railway. The project, currently under construction between London and Birmingham, has already had its leg to Leeds cut and faces uncertainty about its approach into central London. The cost and delays of HS2 have prompted a review by Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to identify potential savings of £30bn with cancelling parts of the project being considered.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham accused ministers of making the north pay for their failures and treating northern passengers as second-class citizens. Burnham criticized the Tories for breaking their promises to invest in the region and leaving the north with outdated infrastructure. Burnham called for an honest conversation about what the government will do to improve the north and let voters decide if it’s enough.
HS2 is expected to reduce journey times between the north and south of England and create more capacity for local train services. The project was originally set to open in 2026 but is currently scheduled for completion in stages from 2029 onwards. Henri Murison, the CEO of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, warned that further cuts to HS2 would damage the government’s relationship with the business community in the north and hinder east-west connectivity across the region.
While Labour has pledged to complete the HS2 project if elected, the Conservatives have faced criticism for their mismanagement and the negative impact on jobs and economic growth. The government should clarify its intentions and commit to delivering the project as planned, said a spokesperson for the High-Speed Rail Group.
Despite the speculation, a government spokesperson confirmed that work on HS2 is underway and that the government remains committed to delivering the project. Treasury Minister John Glen emphasized the long-term benefits of HS2, including boosting productivity and providing a low-carbon alternative for transportation.